This article was commissioned by Kudos Gallery at Arc UNSW as part of the Emerging Critics Award
Poetics of the Line is a jagged form made of metal that creeps across the white walls of the gallery; it is a jumble of broken and discarded objects from the gallery’s surrounds neatly arranged in a circular formation on the wall ; it is a graph whose data plummets towards the x-axis. Throughout this exhibition, the line acts as a form that orients us towards greater truths about our world. Though what those truths are eludes a resolution in the space.
In ways, the line feels at its most poetic in Nolan Ho Wung Murphy’s large scale work, Circle (2019). The work is made with a canvas drop sheet and hung at the far end of the gallery. An open circle of black ink runs around the perimeter of the canvas. At one end where the line seems to begin, it is dense and deep, but tapers off as it rounds to its conclusion. The work remains visibly grounded as it drapes on the gallery floor, and the artist’s role in the act of mark making is made present. We can imagine the artist standing in the centre of the drop sheet and reaching toward the edge with a brush as they turn. The work evokes the artist as an embodied person (whose physical and intellectual labour produce the line). It’s humanity reinforces Marvin’s suggestion in the curatorial statement that a line may reveal something greater than itself. This, however, is perhaps more true of the work itself than of the exhibition at large.
It is not to say that art that centres on a single visual form such as the line cannot convey the complexities of political and social histories. However, I am reminded of one of the pieces of art criticism that I have returned to most frequently in recent months. In an essay called ‘Shades of No’, the curator and critic, Tirdad Zolghadr argues that the art world’s tendency to question without providing an answer holds us back from greater collective organisation . Questioning does little to actually unfold or connect personal and political complexities. Zolghadr’s suggestion is that we ought to be making demands.
On the day of this exhibition’s opening, I attend a student-organised rally on campus calling for the retention of the revered curator, artist, and academic, Tess Allas, whose position as Director of Indigenous Programs is intended to be made redundant by UNSW Art & Design at the end of the 2019 academic year . The protestors demand for her position to be secured. As speakers share personal anecdotes of Allas’ vital presence on campus, the political and the personal seem immediately present and accessible. I am responding to this exhibition as the recipient of UNSW Art & Design’s Emerging Critics Award. I am acutely aware that my receipt of this award—though I am grateful—represents the piecemeal opportunities offered to students on campus. The Emerging Critic responds the Early Career Curator’s show. Each award is a one-off annual event that may have lingering benefits for the recipients, but which does little to feed back into the community. At this moment, the core of a community of Indigenous emerging/early career artists/curators/critics is being pushed out of the institutional environment in which we (Marvin and myself, the artists, and all others at the opening) find ourselves.
 Daniel McKewen, Confidence Games, 2016, 4 parts, stainless steel, 110 x 40 cm (approx.)
 Gaby Dounis, Detritus, 2017, found objects from site, variable dimensions, dispersed amongst gallery
 Alex Gawronski, D, 2013, acrylic and digital print on canvas, 61 x 61 cmecline
 Zolghadr, T., ‘Shades of No’, Witte de With Contemporary Art, 2014, https://www.wdw.nl/en/review/desk/shades_of_no
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Rebecca Hall is an arts worker who has a background in philosophy. She is presently completing a Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership and is the most recent recipient of Kudos Gallery's Emerging Critics Award. She's interested in collectivity and (re)organising in arts practice. Rebecca also makes code-poems and public programs as half of (tiny) art collective Two Leaves, alongside Tim Busuttil. For more of that, see @twoleav.es
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